Clemena Antonova-Crombois

Kunstgeschichte / Religionswissenschaft, Sofia
Aufenthalt: 01.10.2015 - 31.03.2016


Oxford University, D. Phil. (Ph.D.) in the History of Art, 2006.

Edinburgh University, M.Sc. by research in the History of Art, 1997.

Sofia University, Bulgaria, B.A. and M.A. in English Philology, 1994 and M. A. in Cultural Studies, 1995.


Research Fellowships

Institute for Human Sciences, Vienna, 2011–2014 – Project Leader and Senior Research Fellow.

VLAC, Royal Academy of Belgium, January–June 2010: Senior Research Fellow.

Edinburgh University, Institute for Advanced Studies, Spring Semester 2007: Mellon Fellowship.

Oxford University, 2000–2004: Pirie-Reid Scholarship

Oxford University, 2000–2002: Somerville College Scholarship



Current academic affiliations: Senior Research Associate at the Centre for Patristic and Byzantine Cultural Heritage, Sofia University; on the editorial board of the Journal of Icon Studies (USA).

Aug. 2006 – June 2011 – Assistant Professor in Art History and Theory at the American University in Bulgaria.



History of Art and Religious Studies



Visual Biographies of Saints East and West (12th – 13th C.): The (Un)successful Fusion of ‘Iconic’ and ‘Narrative’


The vita or narrative icon, i.e. a painting which represents a larger central portrait of a saint surrounded or flanked on both sides by usually smaller in size scenes of the saint’s life, is a type of image that brings to a head, in the strongest possible terms, many of the principal problems at the heart of Byzantine and Late Medieval Italian image-making. What is at stake is the very definition of “eikon” and the related question of the presence of the prototype in the image, the changing function and role of narrative, continuities between Byzantine and Late Medieval Italian art but also significant departures. In the following research I would address some of these issues by focusing on two, interrelated, questions:

- First: Why did not the vita icon quite establish itself in Byzantium while, in marked contrast, the format really took off in the Balkans and the Latin West? While the “visual biographies of saints” strike us as a particularly appropriate tool of pictorial hagiography, they had, in fact, a relatively short life in Byzantium. After the 12th and the early 13th centuries, vita icons disappear, more or less, in Byzantium. From that point on and especially in post-Byzantine times, however, there is an almost uninterrupted tradition in the Balkans, in Russia, and in the Latin West, especially Italy.

- Second: Connected to the above question, why, even during their heyday in Byzantium, was the production of vita icons confined to certain parts of the Mediterranean (Cyprus, certain parts of Greece) and Sinai, i.e., on the periphery of the empire, especially under conditions of almost unprecedented intense contacts with Western art, but there are only very few such pieces definitely assigned to Constantinople? Is this yet another accident of survival, i.e. they were more Constantinopolitan examples but they were lost? Or, could the lack of evidence point to a conscious choice? The question the real problem, especially acute in this period, of distinguishing works as “Byzantine” or “Western”/ “Crusader”. In many cases, these categories were fused.


Publikationen (Auswahl)

  • Space, Time, and Presence in the Icon: Seeing the World with the Eyes of God, with a preface by Martin Kemp, (Ashgate, U.K.: 2010)
  • “How to View Icons: An Orthodox Theological View”, Sobornost, vol.37/1, 2015.
  • “Toward a Christian Aesthetics: An Eastern Orthodox Perspective”, Cithara, vol. 54/1, Nov. 2014, pp.21–38.
  • “Neo-Palamism in the Russian Philosophy of Full Unity: The Icon as Energetic Symbol”, Sobornost, vol.34/1, 2013, pp.16–32.
  • “Visuality among Cubism, Iconography, and Theosophy”, Journal of Icon Studies, vol. 1, 2012; online.
  • “On the Problem of ’Reverse Perspective’: Definitions East and West”, Leonardo, vol. 43/5, 2010, pp.464–470.
  • “’Beauty Will Save the World’: The Revival of Romantic Theories of the Symbol in Pavel Florensky’s Works”, Slavonica, vol.14/1, 2008, pp.44–56.
  • “The Role of Religious Art in Post-Communist Russia” in Ngo, T. and Quijada, J., (eds.), Atheist Secularism and Its Discontents: A Comparative Study of Religion and Communism in Eurasia, (Palgrave Macmillan, 2015), pp.210–225.
  • “Visual Studies and Iconology at the Russian Academy of Artistic Sciences. Insights from an Unfinished Russian Experiment of the 1920s” in Baert, B., Lehmann, A.-S., and Van Den Akkerveken, (eds.), New Perspectives on Iconology: Visual Studies and Anthropology, (Brussels: ASP Publishers, 2012), pp.80–90.
  • “Re-contextualizing Holy Images in Early Soviet Russia: Florensy’s Response to Lenin’s Plan for Monumental Propaganda” in Fleckner, U., (ed.), Der Sturm der Bilder, (Berlin: Schriften des Internationalen Warburg-Kollegs, 2011), pp.101–119.